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Drunken Parrot Season

A mysterious natural phenomenon leaves vets puzzled


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Every year at the beginning of the wet season, Australia faces an invasion of small, colourful but very clumsy and fearless birds. Red-collared lorikeets (also known as rainbow lorikeets) are stumbling around, falling off trees and behaving uncoordinated. Vets say that they act similar to a drunken person. The birds are most likely feasting on fermented nectar from Schotia brachypetala flowers, also known as the “Drunken Parrot Tree.” The flowering season is late spring to early summer, that's roughly October to December.

Things get worse— the birds seem to suffer from headaches, disorientation, and energy loss—clear hangover symptoms. Although scientists think that there is possibly a virus affecting the birds as well. The treatment for drunken parrots is quite simple—they get sweetened porridge and fresh fruit—a hangover recipe for lorikeets.

However, for some birds hangovers don't go away easily. Many have died and for others, it takes months to recover. Vet clinics and animal caretakers provide a quiet place for parrots to rest until the effects pass, and they can return to the wild.

A rainbow lorikeet is a common species found across all states of Australia. However, during the season, you are likely to find congregations in some areas. For instance, in December 2017, hundreds of these birds visited Adelaide's Botanic Gardens to feast on flower nectar of the Weeping Boer-bean trees.

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